Deafhood Foundation: A Criminal Record Shouldn’t Define Your Entire Existence

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Deafhood Foundation writes, Your donation will help end the economic exploitation of Deaf people, support anti-audism work, and create a society where everyone experiences full humanity and celebrates American Sign Language and Deaf culture.”

I have had been thinking about this for a while. For the last eight years, I have had invested a lot of heart and believability in Deafhood Foundation after reading Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood written by Paddy Ladd. The book arrived at my apartment in Portland, Oregon in April 2010 and I finished that book on the same day. It was mind-blowing experience. As soon as I finished that book, I remember calling up a friend who was one of certified Deafhood presenters and had brief discussion about it. I understood the magnitude of healing. That was the goal.

Two weeks after finishing that book, I was walking on Hawthorne Street in Portland, one of the famous streets, most laid-back streets, and there was a tattoo shop, and I decided to walk in and asked them to give me a tattoo, ‘Deafhood’ on my left arm where it ends up being first Deaf person to have ‘Deafhood’ in America. I was very proud of it.

Fast forward. June 2011. I was awarded with three degrees with honors. I worked very hard as Deaf returnee. I remember that day when I was released from jail in 1996, I told myself; I will never look back and make a huge difference in future. Day after day, year after year, I had no guidance, no space to call my own, or where to go. It was very difficult to deal with. I was separated from friends and Deaf community. I refused to be the scapegoat.

Couple of years later, a Deaf person informed me that the board position was open on the same day, and I immediately became interested in board position. I contacted one of the founding board members for Deafhood Foundation, and the board member said to me that I would not be welcomed on the board and I was devastated more than anything in my life all because I am a Deaf returnee. WITHOUT due process or screened—nothing just like that. Just right on spot right there. I was completely surprised and hurt, too.

It was a major discriminatory. I was surprised that the founding board member signed to me that I’d be “frustrated” and knew that it was discriminating against its own Deaf member in Deaf community. It was a huge blow. It shows that Deafhood Foundation does not support recidivism in Deaf community.

When I had to re-read the book by Paddy Ladd, I realized that the book does not support Deaf returnees either. If less than 0.00000005 percent of Deaf returnees suffering today—the truth supported by lack of awareness, the support matters, and goes a long way, How can we improve this conscious?

Think about emotional and physical impact that has gone deep enough to deal with struggles, with the capacity to think strong that has stored enough. Thought-provoking adventures. I live by reading books doing everything I can to make a living on the streets, and effectively deal with a world that most of us would never understand would never understand what it is like or known about. I often wonder about discovering the origin of life.

It will make a big impact of the overall quality of life. Can we articulate the specific needs of empowerment by building bridges to Deaf community? Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them”—that’s where it starts right there.

So, why not Deafhood Foundation supports Deaf returnees? The “philosophy” of Deafhood Foundation in the broadest sense, ignoring a barrier repertoire—stories, literacy expressions and the like—against Deaf returnees whose forms of expressions exert upon them.

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Where are the tears of joy—and tears of pride? Having being “incarcerated” since my early teen years, I had ever experienced a pursuit of happiness before and never thought I would have that opportunity, my young adulthood forever lost. Deaf returnees do not given a second chance as “productive contributor” to Deaf community.

Deafhood Foundation, where is the compassion and willingness about Deaf returnees to put their lives on the line for others is deeply rooted in their own struggles for being given the opportunity for redemption and for being welcomed back into society?

In Paddy’s Corner: Dr. Ladd coined the word “Deafhood” to describe positive ways of being Deaf in spite of the discrimination and oppression, and to present a framework to understand our past, work within the present, and plan for the future.”

What about the positive framework to understand Deaf returnees’ past, work with the present, and plan for the future to focus on positive ways of being Deaf in spite of the discrimination and oppression every day?

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Few months ago, when I attended as lone Deaf attendee for ACLU National Conference in Washington, D.C.—I saw a powerful image that says I believe a criminal record shouldn’t define your entire existence”—sadly, Deafhood Foundation does not see that way that it would always define your entire existence forever because Deaf community is small–and quickly judged by its looks and books.

-JT

Copyright © 2018 Jason Tozier

This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message.

 

 

 

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Allegory of Deaf Returnees: The Opposite of Hate

 

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After watching ACLU video about the treatment of imprisoned Deaf and Deaf returnees in Georgia, I understood the pain myself. We must understand that the law requires humane treatment of Deaf prisoners. When I was jailed almost 25 years ago, I was placed what was called pod known as C-2. It housed around 50, 60 inmates. Only 15 beds were offered, so the majority of inmates slept on the floor. I was 21 years old that time. Now I am 43 years old.

The first 15 minutes of living in jail system, I got in huge fight with three big inmates who were calling me names and placing death threats, and broke my hand. I was given aspirin for it. Nothing else. I had to be forced and learned how to toughen it up.

I remember I asked for ASL interpreter, written down on note, and it was rightfully violated—as I remember one of the jail staff, knew that I was Deaf, and became the target of harassing through shame and shaming even attempts at shaming more. It was nothing but a shame revival as a force.

Once I was thrown into a solitary confinement known as “hole” for 72 hours just for protecting a Deaf inmate. I stood strong while I was in there. How did it happen? Inmates from C-2 were given one hour to play table pool, and this Deaf inmate was standing on red line where people were not supposed to stand there.

He could not understand what jail staff were talking to him and forced him to lip-read, then I walked up to him and explained to him in ASL, then one of the jail staff, happened to be the same officer who were targeting me, roughed me up against the wall to mind my own business. Other inmates did not like that what they saw and they were on my side. Then I was thrown into hole.

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Then later, I became very sick for nine days and asked to see nurse also I also asked for ASL interpreter, of course, denied as usual. The nurse gave me aspirin and water. My temp was 104 degrees. The treatment of Deaf prisoners exists.

While I was very sick, I had to survive myself. All I had to drink Kool-Aid and could not able to eat much for the last nine days, even though there were few inmates who came up to me and gave up their Kool-Aid out of respect and they knew that I was damn sick as fuck.

Finally, I felt better after nine long brutal days, then about few weeks before my release, I fought for my rights to get captions on TV, it took me many months to fight and won. That morning, there were two men from jail staff came in and installed captions there, I was standing there smiling and other inmates looked at me, “Right on!” and later, I was chosen to be a trustee in C-2 cleaning, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and messenger for inmates before my release.

I had very difficult time getting access to TTY—only that I must wait until after 5 PM, but my lawyer’s office closes at 5 PM. They said to me, “Fuck off” and deal with it. When I use TTY, a jail staffer would stand next to me and read what I type. Seriously. Word for word.

Then the hardest part: the brutal treatment of Deaf returnee in society. Eight years on probation, like I wrote in other post, around 97% of time, I was denied for ASL interpreter, only if it is emergency meetings, or polygraph tests.

I was forced to write down on notes, and lip-read—if I do not comply or cooperate with probation officials, I was warned with eight years in prison is on thin ice for me if I do not comply. Writing about my experience became at stroke of a pen that we all know that pen is mightier than sword.

As a Deaf returnee in the making, I had been the biggest target of an online bullying campaign that they wanted to derail me badly, crashing my livelihood, and mental stability by the personal attacks. Shame is not healthy, it is a targeted emotion, which makes Deaf returnees challenging. Is the society on the full scale of anger? Encouraging culture of fear would solve solution? We need to understand the core of shaming.

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Right before deadly heart attack at Gallaudet University on November 8, 2016: the most important question in the history of Gallaudet, I asked in the front audience will be always forever remembered. Room 1011. The question, “Why did Gallaudet University encourage fear targeting Deaf returnees?” then I was dead for ten minutes. They do not want the public to know the truth. I am a living testimony of personal shame and humiliation. Will the living of testimony of support happen? The history of Gallaudet is famous for bullying, shaming, and ostracized.

Flash. Flash. Flash. Then I came back to life. I challenge scholars themselves to be educated about how to define shaming itself, and particularly about whether to emphasize my experience of shame in my own journey. The treatment of Deaf returnees exists. Bashing does not work. Love is what is most important right now. Hate is not.

Yes, Gallaudet University will be always a hate-crime, hate-speech, and hate-literature campus. How can we improve the treatment of Deaf returnees at Gallaudet University? Department of ASL/Deaf Studies comes in many forms, and it is surprising how much of shaming practices from the department bringing an army of trolls causing real psychological damage. Where is the opening examination of shaming?

-JT

Copyright © 2018 Jason Tozier

This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message.

 

 

 

A Deaf Returnee’s Journey: 22 Years Later

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One of the hardest decisions I would face in this writing is choosing whether to walk away or stay still. 22 years ago today on June 18, I walked out of jail at 7:00 AM while my mother, brother, cousin, and aunt were waiting for me outside. Then we went to Denny’s for breakfast. I had four plates and three glasses of tomato juice. I remember that morning I was so hungry more than anything. I weight 102 pounds that day. Yeah, wild.

After I was back to live in society, eight years of probation has been unbelievably harsh and difficult times of my life ever. Always check in with probation officers every first day of the month despite the financial struggles, sometimes, I’d walk all the way from home. The probation office was in central town.

Sometimes, I’d ride city bus on tight time schedule and find a way to get there. If I miss an appointment with probation officer, I’d face eight years in prison. The worst part was that about 97% of appointments resulted without ASL interpreters. I’d have to write down on notes. If I do not comply even without interpreters when I am Deaf and had asked to lip-read or write down notes or I’d face prison. Eight years. It was unbelievably oppressive.

I also had to deal with polygraph known as lie-detector tests every six months for eight years. The questions, up to 50 questions—most brutal questions. The ASL interpreters were always presented for polygraph tests. The last polygraph test, the question was repeated twice or three times with same 50 questions trying to crack my truth. If I fail polygraph test, I would face prison for eight years without a break. It was mentally, physically, and emotionally challenged.

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I was 29 years old when I ended probation. My lost life started when I was 21. My youth life was robbed and taken away for the benefit of cruel punishment. It was also the same day I passed the very last polygraph test and was discharged from probation. I remember a probation officer, writing down on the note, “you are free to go.” and all those pursuit of happiness I thrived for had been robbed.  When I walked out of probation office, I caught a city bus and was riding back home crying and wondering what would I do with my life after this. I have many, many, many stories.

But, you know what? Also, today, June 18, 1996, I made a serious commitment to myself to work harder and find a way to contribute back to the society. When I was back in society, it was also one of the most challenging life tasks I’d ever experienced. Dealing with bullies, hate messages, physical attacks, rumormongers, verbal attacks, and hate-mongers has been affected my life greatly for the last 22 years and counting.

The best part I’ve done after making promise to myself in 1996 and never be back in jail, after making a bet with a Deaf inmate that I’d graduate from university one day. I kept my promise. I ended up being the first in the family to graduate from university.

One of my old roommates, he was hearing and he was one credit short in English Literature graduating from Portland State University. He mocked me badly that I could never graduate from university. That gave me extra motivation. Funny thing is that I have not seen him for six years until a week right before graduation;

He was sitting in my English professor’s office, waiting for her to come in and I saw him there and he was surprised to see me there and I told him that I was about to graduate next week. My old roommate did not even graduate yet. One credit left. It was one of best parts that gave me extra motivation. Oh, you should see his face!

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I was accepted a scholarship in graduate ASL/Deaf Studies at Gallaudet, I felt the right track to be a professor like I promised myself. After forced to lose my scholarship just because I am Deaf returnee, I was not given due process of law. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments protect everyone’s right to due process of law. When Gallaudet University denies fair treatment for me, makes it impossible to be protected by the Constitution. It is very important for everyone to learn and protect their rights to due process at Gallaudet University.

Yet, unemployed ever since. Being Deaf returnee has dealt with 100 times more oppressive and hostile environment.

22 years later, the bridge of tears continues to live. It has been incredible, but difficult journey. Several heart attacks, including massive one that resulted in death two years ago. I continue to contribute back for Deaf community with something very important avenues. I want to thank people I know for believing in me. I believe in higher learning, I believe in empowerment, I believe in support circles, I believe in awareness, and I believe in motivation.

I am very proud to be a lecturer where I had given more than 15 lectures around country and Canada. I have soon to have 240,000 hits on my blog after written 750+ posts from challenging the cycle of hate crimes in Deaf community, the impact of anti-bias and anti-bullying, challenging incendiary hate speeches, human rights, sociological lens in Deaf community, controversial cochlear implant industries, Deaf returning citizens awareness, and the awareness of Deaf Studies.

22 years later, I never thought I’d do something like this. I was a young man struggling for better journey. Living on 40 dollars for ten years has been difficult enough. On the advice of books I’ve read all these years, I used my time on the western fringes of literature to write my stories and collect stories as well, or as Yeats once said, “express a life that has never found expression.”

When I got at an apartment I shared with my cousin and brother that day in 1996, I slept the longest time ever I could remember and woke up in the morning, wondering if I would ever get better journey and wondered if I’d express a life that has ever found me expression at least. Whatever it is.

It is important to share your story as I am. As I continue to search for my stories to be completed including at ACLU National Conference 2018 in Washington, D.C.; The pursuit of happiness continues to be found. 32 years ago, as a 12 years old kid, I lost my life right there and tend to get my life back rightfully.

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-JT

Copyright © 2018 Jason Tozier

This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message.

ACLU: Hate Crime Exist in Deaf Community

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As a Deaf person who had supported American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for years had walked through ACLU’s conference 2018 in Washington, D.C. with thousands and thousands of people, after I walked through and met some coolest ACLU state chapters, and national members you’ve ever seen.

This is what it feels like when you understand your rights feel worth every minute, when the conference starts, when there is an opportunity right there. This is what it feels like when you feel empowered. In the last 22 years of being a Deaf returnee, has been shackling to a cruel and unusual punishment in the eye of United States Constitution, Eighth Amendment.

I was a Gallaudet University graduate student with full scholarship. I was expelled from Gallaudet University for my 32 years ago wrongdoing and mistake. That is when I was 12 years old kid. Just a fucking kid. 32 years ago. I was wrong what I did. Come on! How can it be in the name of truth by figuring out the solution, second-chances upon a potentially far more healthy discourse for Deaf community?

How come the cruel punishment continue to fail to meet the lowest acceptable standards of human fairness, why Deaf community in America spent decades in defending and speaking out against injustice, Audism—when is a hate crime a hate crime? When it is a crime of hate, or when the media say it is not?

And if the society are to be the arbiters of what is, or not, a hate crime, who will judge Deaf people without bias? Is Deaf community the last hope resort?

When society took the dominance over Deaf people’s turfism, the screaming pain in the early days of cruel punishment, Deaf people became the target for the society that could not escape the hate. Whether Deaf people’s traumas can ever truly overcome. The answers offer is in denial, deeply rooted in lies and empty my heart out. The name of truth will ever be seen.

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There are two important amendments to the United States Constitution that help to explain the rights of Deaf community.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Here is the breakdown: freedom of press, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, freedom to petition.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; or shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal when accused of wrongdoing. Due process means the Gallaudet University cannot give you a serious punishment, like suspension or expulsion, without first having followed fair procedures to determine if you are guilty.

If you are found guilty of something, the punishment cannot be more serious than the misconduct was. If Gallaudet chooses to punish you, it must punish all others the same. I continue to “speak up, speak out!” Gallaudet needs change now. Be bold, be changed, and be heard!

In Gallaudet University, most of the people around are totally unaware that there is any problem at Gallaudet University. Talk about it more! Get other interested and concerned for the Deaf in their struggle for social justice. One day to complete my dream to give lecture for ACLU about hate crimes in Deaf community.

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-JT

Copyright © 2018 Jason Tozier

This text may be freely copied in its entirely only including this copyright message.